Is Buddhism elitist?

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby BuddhaSoup » Sat Nov 17, 2012 3:38 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
viniketa wrote:For some time now (perhaps 15 years), I've been contemplating the question of whether or not Buddhism is 'elitist'. I've been fighting this conclusion, but the evidence from things I've read or seen seems to indicate it is, and has been so since almost the beginning. As much as a prescription for suffering, the teachings of Buddhism seem to lend themselves to justifying one's own elitist leanings. This seems so not only in the teachings on karma (a convenient way of dismissing the suffering of 'others') and accumulating merit, but also so in the description of the qualities of a Buddha along with the almost racial implications of terms included in Nāgārjuna's Dharma-sāṃgraha.

I'm very interested in reading others' thoughts on this, especially thought that indicate this is a wrong-view of the teachings.

Thank you.


No, Buddhism is not elitist.
All beings have equal potential to realize the perfect cessation of suffering.
But people also have different types of obstacles.
Obstacles, however, can also be used as stepping stones.
Whether one can turn his or her obstacles into stepping stones depends on many factors.
Feeling superior to others (elitism) is a very difficult obstacle to overcome
but overcoming it is the basis of humility,
and that is the first step in letting go of ego clinging.
If one sees elitism as being intrinsically either good or bad,
then there is no understanding of emptiness.
......

First, please make a distinction between the dharma teachings, said to be the words of the Buddha,
and the institution of buddhism.

Second, holding "karma' as a justification of the suffering of others is a misunderstanding.
The karma is what ripens in the mind, and has little to do with material or 'external' objects.
For example, a person who is greedy and stingy in this life will experience poverty in the next life.
This doesn't mean the person won't have money. That person may very well be born into the wealthiest of families.
But that wealth will never be enough. That person will always feel he doesn't have enough
and as a consequence he will suffer the pain of poverty.
That is what is meant by karma.

Instead of going by what Nagarjuna may have said about the Buddha's appearance,
go by what the Buddha says in the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā (Diamond)Sutra:

"Subhuti, what do you think?
Can the Buddha be recognized by means of his bodily form?"
"No, Most Honored One, the Buddha cannot be recognized by means of his bodily form.
Why? Because when the Buddha speaks of bodily form, it is not a real form, but only an illusion."
The Buddha then spoke to Subhuti: "All that has a form is illusive and unreal.
When you see that all forms are illusive and unreal, then you will begin to perceive your true Buddha nature."
. . .
another translation:
" Subhuti, what do you think, is it possible to see the Thus Come One in his physical appearances?"
"No World Honored One, it is not possible to see Thus Come One in his physical appearances.
Why? Because the physical appearances mentioned by the Thus Come One are not physical appearances."
The Buddha said to Subhuti,
"All appearances are empty and false.
If one sees all appearances
As no appearances,
Then one sees the Thus Come One."

.
.
.


:good:

It's usually a good idea to refer to the earliest texts to get a real sense of what the Buddha was discussing with his disciples. The Diamond Cutter Sutra is not from the earliest period of recorded texts, but it is an early Mahayana text and seems to capture well the style of the Buddha's teachings, and it may be derived from a very early text or oral teaching. In any case, the Buddha truly broke the mold when he taught outside the Brahmanic norms, and established a Dharma that would be democratic. In other words, he rejected caste, and taught the Dharma to all people regardless of their position in society. So, the original intent of Buddha was this open, democratic and free Dharma. To the extent that modern teachers or sanghas set up high societal bars to reach, economic barriers to enter, or design seminars only for the CEOs, the glitterati and the wealthy, this is a violation of what the Buddha intended. Whenever I see these 'glittered up' seminars, or ads that suggest special teachings at $10,000 a pop, I recoil. These kinds of seminars are shameful and only serve to diminish what Buddha was trying to teach.
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby greentara » Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:31 pm

Jikan, After abit of research..... I'm pretty sure it was a Vipassana meditation retreat around 2005, the teacher was Patrick Given Wilson (a former merchant banker)
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby Jikan » Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:41 pm

greentara wrote:Jikan, After abit of research..... I'm pretty sure it was a Vipassana meditation retreat around 2005, the teacher was Patrick Given Wilson (a former merchant banker)


Super helpful, thank you so much! I suspect this is the film?

http://www.abc.net.au/compass/s1307111.htm
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby Jnana » Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:42 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:To the extent that modern teachers or sanghas set up high societal bars to reach, economic barriers to enter, or design seminars only for the CEOs, the glitterati and the wealthy, this is a violation of what the Buddha intended. Whenever I see these 'glittered up' seminars, or ads that suggest special teachings at $10,000 a pop, I recoil. These kinds of seminars are shameful and only serve to diminish what Buddha was trying to teach.

Indeed.
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:53 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote: To the extent that modern teachers or sanghas set up high societal bars to reach, economic barriers to enter, or design seminars only for the CEOs, the glitterati and the wealthy, this is a violation of what the Buddha intended. Whenever I see these 'glittered up' seminars, or ads that suggest special teachings at $10,000 a pop, I recoil. These kinds of seminars are shameful and only serve to diminish what Buddha was trying to teach.


My teachers have, I think, all been genuine, humble, and endlessly generous with offering the Dharma freely to anyone who asks.
I would be rather skeptical of teachings that are offered for a very high fee.
I would even go so far as to suggest that
the deeper one has to reach into one's pocket to pay for teachings
the shallower in depth the teachings will be.
That being said...
making the dharma available is not an inexpensive endeavor.
Of course, it is true that there are many free books and plenty of stuff online.
And there are some groups who do measure people by how much money they give, and this is quite unfortunate.
but if a local sangha offers, say, a weekend teaching from a qualified teacher,
consider the costs involved in making that teaching available, consider it an investment,
and pay without attachment if you can.
I encourage people to save 25 cents a day specifically to pay for dharma teachings
or to give to support your local center.
it isn't very much, so you can save it without much attachment, and in a year you will save over $90
Which, in the United States, can usually pay for a weekend teaching event if it is not too elaborate.

In the west, where money seems to cause all sorts of stress
and we associate it with greed and materialism and so forth,
there is often a reluctance on behalf of students to support their local sanghas financially.
Not to mention the fact that that we have all been exposed to
those Sunday Morning preachers who ask for money all the time.

We have this imaginary picture of the happy barefoot sage,
going no place, coming from nowhere, with no money and no cares
la la la la la.
So, when the Buddhists ask us to make a big
"obligatory donation"
we think, "WTF???"
So, somebody else usually picks up the tab. Is that good?

I used to operate a "store" at a dharma center,
where books, incense, malas, and various practice material were sold, to raise money for the center.
Somebody told me I should just sell the books at wholesale cost instead of marking the price up.
they said, this way people could get the dharma teachings for less money.
What a great idea.
But I told that person, in that case, only the people who could afford the books would benefit.
But if the center made money from the sale of the books, all beings would benefit.

Most dharma groups need money but they will usually accept help from people who want to volunteer to do things.
This has gotten away from the topic, perhaps. But I think the point is that elitism is best overcome when everybody offers what they can, and whether it is a tiny amount or a lot doesn't matter, as long as it is a generous and sincere offering.

At the same time, historically, buddhism has often been supported by rich donors who want extra-special treatment.
It's a pitiful thing, really. But hey, there are 84,000 roads to Dharma and people create their own paths.
Who am I to judge others?

.
.
.
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby greentara » Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:22 am

Padma, I couldn't help but laugh! "We have this imaginary picture of the happy barefoot sage,
going no place, coming from nowhere, with no money and no cares
la la la la la.
So, when the Buddhists ask us to make a big
"obligatory donation"
we think, "WTF???"
So, somebody else usually picks up the tab. Is that good?"

The happy barefoot sage is the ideal and having no money, no cares... still seems to me the genuine deal.
The Buddha, Kabir, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta etc still pull at the heart strings.
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:39 am

The American Buddhist fantasy...
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby anjali » Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:40 am

The question of elitist Buddhism is an interesting one. For Buddhism not to be elitist it has to connect with ordinary folks. Of course that greatly depends on what we define as "ordinary". Anyone care to venture a definition of what "ordinary" would mean for this discussion? And what would motivate ordinary people to first consider, then adopt a Buddhist path?

Even in the Buddha's time, he had wealthy patronage. I think all of his monasteries were donated by kings or wealthy merchants. Yet, his teachings and the sangha attracted individuals from all strata of the caste system. Seeing the sangha as a social movement, it offered a way for people to escape a rigid social system and commit to something that promised a way out of suffering based on their own merits and efforts.

In modern Buddhism in the West, it may well be the elites who are first hearing and adopting the Buddhist message. This shouldn't be too much of a surprise since it's social function as a corrective and alternative to the ills of society is currently filled by Christian teachings. Over the centuries many disenfranchised people have looked to the Christian/biblical teachings for comfort. Those people tend to poorer and less educated. It is only people who are first dissatisfied with the Abrahamic tradition itself (for whatever reasons), who are looking for an alternative, and who have the means and time to do so who might adopt Buddhism. At the moment that seems to be people who are more educated and have at least some financial means to do so. As Buddhism finds a Western base with Buddhist immigrants, more Western adopters, and more children born to Western Buddhist parents, I would expect this to slowly change.

Counter examples to elitism might be Buddhist prison outreach or Buddhism in the hood (see this interesting website: http://buddhainthehood.com/). Perhaps folks here can identify other successful examples of Buddhism for commoners.
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby anjali » Sun Nov 18, 2012 5:21 am

Just came across this rather interesting book: The Sociology of Early Buddhism, http://www.watflorida.org/documents/The ... abbett.pdf. From the summary,

"Early Buddhism flourished because it was able to take up the challenge represented by buoyant economic conditions and the need for cultural uniformity in the newly emergent states in northeastern India from the fifth century bce onwards. This book begins with the apparent inconsistency of Buddhism, a renunciant movement, surviving within a strong urban environment, and draws out the implications of this. In spite of the Buddhist ascetic imperative, the Buddha and other celebrated monks moved easily through various levels of society and fitted into the urban landscape they inhabited. The Sociology of Early Buddhism tells how and why the early monks were able to exploit the social and political conditions of mid-first millennium northeastern India in such a way as to ensure the growth of Buddhism into a major world religion."

From the introduction,

"Our principal contention throughout the book is that Buddhism expanded and flourished, ultimately to a greater extent than its sramanic rivals, because the monk (and perhaps the nun, though there is little evidence for this) was able to function as an instrument of mediation between the forces – political and economic – benefiting from the changes that had taken place prior to, and perhaps during, the life of the Buddha, on the one hand, and those other groups for whom such changes were difficult to digest, on the other hand."
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby songhill » Mon Nov 19, 2012 12:30 am

There is a huge difference between a prithagjana and one who is a current winner (sotapanna) or a bodhisattva (one who has had bodhicittotpada). Is that technically elitism? It's hard to say.
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby Shemmy » Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:30 pm

How about the 10th Vajrayana precept:

(10) Being loving toward malevolent people
Malevolent people are those who despise our personal teachers, spiritual masters in general, or the Buddhas, Dharma, or the Sangha, or who, in addition, cause harm or damage to any of them. Although it is inappropriate to forsake the wish for such persons to be happy and have the causes for happiness, we commit a root downfall by acting or speaking lovingly toward them. Such action includes being friendly with them, supporting them by buying goods they produce, books that they write, and so on. If we are motivated purely by love and compassion, and possess the means to stop their destructive behavior and transfer them to a more positive state, we would certainly try to do so, even if it means resorting to forceful methods. If we lack these qualifications, however, we incur no fault in simply boycotting such persons.

Could the 10th precept not be seen as a type of elitism? Perhaps. And perhaps elitism is a good thing, it seems practical that if we're serious about Buddhism we might want to steer clear of those who might harm our practice, and being a bit elitist might be a way to keep those people away . But, then where do you draw the line as to who is a "malevolent person" and who isn't. For example, I have many good friends who are a bit paranoid and closed minded about anything faintly religious. I can understand why they feel that way, they have had bad experiences as Catholics or they have been raised by parents who schooled them in a kind of militant atheism. I don't see them as malevolent just because they hold rather disrespectful views about Buddhism based on ignorance. But I often wonder if i am in trouble with this one because I shrug off derision from them regarding something I feel they don't understand and which is private and having nothing to do with our friendship anyway.
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby Jnana » Mon Nov 19, 2012 7:32 pm

songhill wrote:There is a huge difference between a prithagjana and one who is a current winner (sotapanna) or a bodhisattva (one who has had bodhicittotpada). Is that technically elitism?

I don't think so, because a person can become a stream-winner regardless of social status or education level.
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby undefineable » Wed Nov 21, 2012 2:54 am

Shemmy wrote:But, then where do you draw the line as to who is a "malevolent person" and who isn't. For example, I have many good friends who are a bit paranoid and closed minded about anything faintly religious. I can understand why they feel that way, they have had bad experiences as Catholics or they have been raised by parents who schooled them in a kind of militant atheism. I don't see them as malevolent just because they hold rather disrespectful views about Buddhism based on ignorance. But I often wonder if i am in trouble with this one because I shrug off derision from them regarding something I feel they don't understand and which is private and having nothing to do with our friendship anyway.


Not to resurrect a done-and dusted argument (see 'Are All Buddhists Atheists'), but I think western Buddhism should expect equal hostility from theists and atheists, though perhaps not the dwindling band of agnostics who don't see why it should be everyone's personal responsibility to claim to know something they can't know. {Outside the US, Christians are probably less likely to be vocal in their hostility, as many will be aware.} I think that as Buddhists, though, we can work on developing skilful means with which to deflect and (even) deal with such hostility. After all, I guess that in many more distant or old-fashioned friendships, a degree of privacy (regarding every last activity one devotes one's energies to) is accepted. If friends do pry -and a vague comment along the lines of "that's for me to know and you to find out" seems inappropriate, then personally I'd just be clear that I pursue 'truth' with means that are not only non-empirical but also ultimately non-authoritative, non-intuitive, and at the same time more than simply rational {I guess a kind of meta-empirical process develops on the mental level}. Of course, only some atheists are know-it-alls ;)

But just listening to pious/preachy atheists as they pop up unexpectedly on the TV makes me (atleast) feel duty-bound to accept their worldview and unwilling to limit myself to a metaphysical/religious stance that (it's become clear to me) any fool can understand (which is the beauty of science for me) - even while it claims to be the stance of intelligent people. On the other hand, if the atheist in question knows little of Buddhism, it's true in as much as Buddhism appears nihilistic to paint it as an ultra-atheist religion, citing how many neuroscientists generate a sense of atheist machismo in their own denial of selfhood while so many other atheists still cling to the 18'th-century ideal of the autonomous individual. I suspect this would-be 'upaya' would be frowned upon by those 'in the know' :thinking:

Bringing it all :focus: , one could see this as either elitist or counter-elitist, depending on the angle of one's view - besides of course one's culture.

I don't think this is the kind of elitism the OP had in mind, though _ _
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby Sara H » Wed Nov 21, 2012 7:17 am

anjali wrote:The question of elitist Buddhism is an interesting one. For Buddhism not to be elitist it has to connect with ordinary folks. Of course that greatly depends on what we define as "ordinary". Anyone care to venture a definition of what "ordinary" would mean for this discussion? And what would motivate ordinary people to first consider, then adopt a Buddhist path?

Even in the Buddha's time, he had wealthy patronage. I think all of his monasteries were donated by kings or wealthy merchants. Yet, his teachings and the sangha attracted individuals from all strata of the caste system. Seeing the sangha as a social movement, it offered a way for people to escape a rigid social system and commit to something that promised a way out of suffering based on their own merits and efforts.

In modern Buddhism in the West, it may well be the elites who are first hearing and adopting the Buddhist message. This shouldn't be too much of a surprise since it's social function as a corrective and alternative to the ills of society is currently filled by Christian teachings. Over the centuries many disenfranchised people have looked to the Christian/biblical teachings for comfort. Those people tend to poorer and less educated. It is only people who are first dissatisfied with the Abrahamic tradition itself (for whatever reasons), who are looking for an alternative, and who have the means and time to do so who might adopt Buddhism. At the moment that seems to be people who are more educated and have at least some financial means to do so. As Buddhism finds a Western base with Buddhist immigrants, more Western adopters, and more children born to Western Buddhist parents, I would expect this to slowly change.

Counter examples to elitism might be Buddhist prison outreach or Buddhism in the hood (see this interesting website: http://buddhainthehood.com/). Perhaps folks here can identify other successful examples of Buddhism for commoners.


That was a great post,
Thank you.
You identified it all in one I think.

In Gassho,
-Sara
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Nov 21, 2012 10:04 pm

anjali wrote: Those people tend to poorer and less educated. It is only people who are first dissatisfied with the Abrahamic tradition itself (for whatever reasons), who are looking for an alternative, and who have the means and time to do so who might adopt Buddhism. At the moment that seems to be people who are more educated and have at least some financial means to do so.


Well, that sounds elitist to me.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby anjali » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:11 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
anjali wrote: Those people tend to poorer and less educated. It is only people who are first dissatisfied with the Abrahamic tradition itself (for whatever reasons), who are looking for an alternative, and who have the means and time to do so who might adopt Buddhism. At the moment that seems to be people who are more educated and have at least some financial means to do so.


Well, that sounds elitist to me.

It does, doesn't it?

Think of adopting Buddhism in the West in terms of the diffusion of a social innovation. Under what conditions will someone in the West adopt Buddhism? People have to
  • know about it
  • be motivated to evaluate it
  • evaluate it
  • reach a positive evaluation
  • adopt it
  • sustain the adoption over the long run.

There are all kinds of social obstacles/norms that hinder adoption at each stage.

As a group, earliest adopters (aka innovators) are risk takers and don't depend on "fitting in" as a criterion for adoption. Later and later adopters tend to look more and more to the norms of their social groups to help them decide on what and what not to adopt. Early adopters are normative outliers. It appears to be the case that, for early Buddhist adopters in the West, they also seem to have a higher socio-economic status than the majority. I have no doubt that there are specific examples that counter the trend, but, for the moment, they are not representative of the early adopter group as a whole.

Unfortunately, the way our society is structured has influenced both the path of early adoption and the types of early adopters. That can, and hopefully will, change. Some things that will influence adoption:

  • Buddhist demographics: immigrants, early Western adopters and children raised in Buddhist families
  • Accessible information: easily accessible, positive info about Buddhism.
  • Dissatisfaction/disenfranchisement: with current religious norms and institutions
  • Role models/opinion leaders: later adopters need Buddhist role models for their social groups
  • Development of Buddhist networks: to build a sense of community--the Sangha, (perhaps in new forms, such as dharmawheel)

Personally, I think we are starting to see the diffusion of Buddhism into the wider society. At least there seem to be indicators of that.
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby BuddhaSoup » Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:21 am

Anjali, great post. What methods do you recommend to make Buddhist practice more easy accessible? How would we begin to, in a sense, "market" the Dharma to the wider population? How would we accomplish this in a proper and ethical way? I have noticed that the Church of JC for Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church) runs polished ads on evening television. The ads themselves are well produced and may leave some viewers with a desire to pursue that path further. Should Buddhists use public relations to awaken people to the brand?

It would seem to me that in the West we lack identifiable figureheads for Buddhism. Sure, there's Richard Gere, for example, but despite all of his good work for Tibetan freedom and other causes, he is not established as a Buddhist leader.

A Buddhist was just elected to the US Senate. Perhaps as more public figures, be they celebrities, politicians, or community leaders, identify as Buddhist, the Buddhist brand will emerge more strongly.

I do see the Dharma as a form of medicine for a disordered society, and feel that if only this medicine, this antivenom, were more widely available, more lives could be improved. The question is, how to we "market" the brand without tarnishing it? How do we prevent the "snake oil salesmen," who denigrate the Dharma into self-profiteering, from becoming leading figures in the West?
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby anjali » Sun Nov 25, 2012 12:23 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:Anjali, great post. What methods do you recommend to make Buddhist practice more easy accessible? How would we begin to, in a sense, "market" the Dharma to the wider population? How would we accomplish this in a proper and ethical way? I have noticed that the Church of JC for Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church) runs polished ads on evening television. The ads themselves are well produced and may leave some viewers with a desire to pursue that path further. Should Buddhists use public relations to awaken people to the brand?

It would seem to me that in the West we lack identifiable figureheads for Buddhism. Sure, there's Richard Gere, for example, but despite all of his good work for Tibetan freedom and other causes, he is not established as a Buddhist leader.

A Buddhist was just elected to the US Senate. Perhaps as more public figures, be they celebrities, politicians, or community leaders, identify as Buddhist, the Buddhist brand will emerge more strongly.

I do see the Dharma as a form of medicine for a disordered society, and feel that if only this medicine, this antivenom, were more widely available, more lives could be improved. The question is, how to we "market" the brand without tarnishing it? How do we prevent the "snake oil salesmen," who denigrate the Dharma into self-profiteering, from becoming leading figures in the West?


I was hoping someone else would chime in on this. Let me throw some ideas out.

Be an example. I think first and foremost, we have to be positive examples. On the whole, I think most of us walk the walk and try to live good lives based on the Dharma. This counts for a lot. What Buddhism doesn't need (but perhaps is inevitable) is bad press--such as philandering teachers and weirdness such as the Christy McNally thing out in the Arizona desert. On a more positive note, people like Richard Gere or Steve Jobs connect with the mainstream and provide good examples.

Information. Now days there are all kinds of ways to get info on Buddhism if someone is interested via books, magazines, social media, forums, dedicated websites on general Buddhism. I've always been impressed with the amount of free literature and dharma talks available within the Theravada community (one example is dharmaseed.org; there are others). I believe more freely available, easily accessible talks within the Zen and Tibetan traditions would be most welcome. There are also the usual book tours by teachers. For example Tsoknyi Rinpoche recently made the rounds here in the US to promote his book, Open Heart, Open Mind. I'm personally not sure Buddhism is ready for any kind of TV ad push.

Connecting. By and large, my take is that sangha members want to keep a low profile. And I can't blame them really, given the predominate cultural biases. To the extent possible, local Buddhist communities can have occasional open house events that might prove useful. Down in Atlanta, for example, there is a yearly open house for people to get to know the local Drepung Loseling monastery and community. There may be other ways for local Sanghas to do community/humanitarian outreach. For example, I've always been impressed with Thich Nhat Hanh's community walks for peace. Also, there are yearly events such as the annual Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage in northern California which you can read about here: https://ssl.dharmawheels.org/wp/.

Practice. This is the area that I believe is most problematic at the moment. Current places of practice are very geographically distributed, tending to be few and far between. Mostly clustered near major urban centers--with some exceptions of course. This is a problem for people that want to move from reading to practicing. Also, unfortunately, if someone is attracted to a specific flavor of Buddhism, they may not find a teacher or sangha within hundreds or thousands of miles. And here lies the rub for those who espouse the "elitist Buddhism" point of view: we are at an early stage of Buddhism's diffusion into Western culture. So, not only do people have to travel far distances to attend events, they also have to pay fees for attending those events. This can be prohibitively expensive and off-putting to people who lack mobility or financial means. There is no easy solution for this, especially if a particular Buddhist tradition requires face-to-face connection with a teacher and transmissions of certain teachings can take days. As a personal example, I was interested getting an experience of Chan Buddhism. There was no local sangha or teacher. I had to travel 1200 miles to an initial 5 day retreat. The whole trip plus registration fee cost me upwards of $600 dollars. Depending on your financial circumstances, that's not cheap. And to top it off, there was still no local Chan sangha when I got back. If I wanted to practice, I'd be doing to on my own. So, what to do? The key is finding a way to teach the authentic dharma and support the practice of people who may be isolated and with limited (or no) opportunities for travel. One approach that I find interesting is Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche's new online teaching/practice approach: https://dharmasun.org/. I think this is innovative and may point to the future of globally distributed practice of the dharma.

:anjali:
  • The object of the game is to go on playing it. --John Von Neumann
  • All activities are like the games children play. If started, they can never be finished. They are only completed once you let them be, like castles made of sand. --Khenpo Nyoshul Rinpoche
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby BuddhaSoup » Sun Nov 25, 2012 12:56 am

:good:

Great stuff, Anjali. Thanks for posting on this and I was glad to read your comments as well as clicking on the urls that you provided.
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Re: Is Buddhism elitist?

Postby ground » Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:00 am

viniketa wrote:For some time now (perhaps 15 years), I've been contemplating the question of whether or not Buddhism is 'elitist'. I've been fighting this conclusion, but the evidence from things I've read or seen seems to indicate it is, and has been so since almost the beginning. As much as a prescription for suffering, the teachings of Buddhism seem to lend themselves to justifying one's own elitist leanings. This seems so not only in the teachings on karma (a convenient way of dismissing the suffering of 'others') and accumulating merit, but also so in the description of the qualities of a Buddha along with the almost racial implications of terms included in Nāgārjuna's Dharma-sāṃgraha.

I'm very interested in reading others' thoughts on this, especially thought that indicate this is a wrong-view of the teachings.

Thank you.


'elitist' or not ... but now after 15 years of carrying this load called "buddhism" about, when will you become weary of it and finally put it down?

:meditate:
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